Let the trials begin

We can only look on as our boy tries to impress his next coach

We’re cold, we’re wet and we’re here.

Mother, father and kitted-out son on this dank December Saturday morning, as inconspicuously conspicuous as the others standing beside the clubhouse of one of Dublin’s top underage football teams.

The trials season is now open, and this is our … O’s … first one.

O is leaving his football team to join a new one.

Maybe this one.

Everything about his old club was positive, except the football.

Getting beaten – hammered – every week and, worse, expecting to be.

O’s football has suffered and he just had to leave.

There have been no tears or tantrums all season and he has displayed immense fortitude.

But the head has gone down a little more with each loss, the shoulders hunched a little tenser as he took the pitch.

Been a while since he hopped out of bed on match day.

Two years ago, the cracks would have shown. Outwardly.

Not this time.

But the internal cracks run deeper, insinuating themselves into a player’s very well-being.

At this level all these kids can play football. Some obviously a little better than others, but the mental side determines so much, if not everything.

You can bluff your way through life, I have observed, but you can’t bluff your way through a sporting contest. Not at this level.

So here he is, starting again.

Yes, 13 years old and he has to rock up, and wait now for the head coach to show up and run the rule over him, and all the other hopefuls.

As O’s parents, we are trying to lead and guide but not overstep the mark.

Out there on the pitch he will be on his own, so we have to take his lead, and trust in that resilience and valour that has served him well.

“Don’t be a weirdo” he whispers sharply to me at one point as I lean in a little too close.

The knots of parents and lone kids are scanning each other, nervous but determined that no whiff of blood or weakness be released into the desperate winter air.

So we will find out by crowd osmosis what pitch we will actually go to, as O gets tetchier with our fussing and talk, setting his game face.

Eventually he leaves us, to go over and wait, inscrutable now, at the metal barrier outside the pitch. Ready to go on.

The kids from the club are all here in their club gear uniform, cosy in their familiarity with each other, but armed somewhere with the knowledge that the triallists here are looking for their spot.

No-one is safe.

We spot the head coach, he sees me; I know he knows me, and knows O, but he too has his game face on.

Soon O will run out with the other gladiators in football boots on to a soggy, bumpy pitch, as all the coaches with their jackets and club crests take their sideline positions, ready to give the thumbs up or down at the end.

They will weight up these boys like cattle in a bull-ring, gauging them for speed, skill, tactical nous, heart … whatever they are looking for in players deemed worth of wearing their club colours, and representing them in the city’s highest league and beyond.

The easiest bit is the actual football.

There is a long warm up and then bibs are allocated.

O settles in, he’s doing okay … passing well, standing close to his opponent, trying to get him to do what O wants, not the other way around.

Moments in, a guy from the other team gets free on the right as we are watching it, and cuts a dangerous ball across the area.

O has spotted it and leaves his position on the left to charge across the area and a lunging tackle just tips the ball out away from the attacker about to unload on the open goal.

The ball is cleared for a corner. But O is down, holding his foot.

That’s him, always ready to put his body on the line.

He resumes.

But there’s a slight difference. He’s never one to let people know he’s hurt or complain, but I can tell from his gait he is not moving 100 per cent freely.

Maybe he’s 98 percent. But that missing two per cent …

The game has to go on, and he keeps plugging away.

The session eventually ends and we linger on the sideline, waiting for O to come to us.

He is disappointed.

Disappointed with the level of the triallists, most of them from the Major leagues, the levels below the Premier, where O has been playing.

Disappointed with himself.

I am the one who draws attention to the fact he didn’t look comfortable out there after that early challenge.

He admits his “what do ya call it, my groin? … is a bit sore”.

We are making our way towards the clubhouse, when one of the coaches calls us back, telling us the head coach wants a word.

He wants to talk to me.

Long story short: he is full of praise for O’s skillset, his willingness to put his body on the line, but he does not need any new defenders.

“Listen I don’t want to waste yer time … I know O, he’s a great kid, but we only conceded four goals all last season, and one of those was a goalkeeping error!”

He is smiling and looking at the other coach as he says this, clearly the pair have agonised over every one of those four goals conceded.

“Our problem last season was we were making loads of chances and not converting them … that’s what we need, someone to take those chances … but they’re like gold dust.”

So that’s it. We appreciate the fact the coach has taken the time to approach us and talk to me.

I grin at him, touch him on the shoulder, and say “I’m hoping that some time, I will be saying to you, ‘You had your chance’ …”

He laughs

“You might be right … but as a coach I have to make these decisions.

“But the best of luck to O.”

How does O take this?

“I agree 100 per cent,” he says. “When you only concede four goals all season, he’s right, you don’t need more defenders.”

That’s the thing with O, he knows who he is, and you better not try to kid him or jolly him along. Just tell him straight. If he agrees, he agrees, and he will let you know when he doesn’t.

Trial one out of the way.


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About endardoo

A newspaper sub-editor for many years, I am now a blogger and freelance sub-editor. Husband of one and house daddy of two: a feisty and dramatic 17-year-old girl and a bright, resilient football nut of a boy aged 16. My website:

53 comments on “Let the trials begin

  1. This takes me back a few years to when one of my daughters was starting out to play football she was just 8 years old, I didn’t dare to believe she was any good, but my knowledge of football and being a qualified football coach I knew that she was actually quite good. She had something you can’t teach she knew how to score.
    I’m sure O will find the team that suits him soon.
    My daughter eventually moved from her original team to a better team and then when on to represent wales at youth and senior level.
    I love your sons attitude towards it all that in itself tells me he will be a star in a winning team. Looking forward to what happens next. Most important is his love of playing football continues.
    Great post as always Enda

    Liked by 1 person

    • Couldn’t agree more … about keeping the love of football alive. That’s so what he needs: a competitive team. He can cope with defeat, when it’s not a forgone conclusion, and his team are at least competing. He has always maintained that it’s easier to play on a better team; he would say that’s what marks out such a team, more passing options when you have the ball. Is your daughter still playing competitively? I assume it’s your daughter who is the qualified nurse? Thanks so much Nige for the encouraging words. Great to have them from one who knows!


  2. Awesome. I understand this on many levels. Youth sports is a big part in many families’ lives. You wrote it out well. Best of luck.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my goodness, I was so willing O on throughout your piece. So sad he didn’t make it, but it sounds like he will fit in somewhere, I’m glad he’s still positive and took it well.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. His attitude is brilliant. I hope he has more luck with another trial: he deserves it 😊


  5. Cheers Clive. Luck and deserving unfortunately not reliable. We have to help him to make a good move happen. No rash moves!


  6. such a truly positive life lesson that your son has gracefully accepted . . . thanks to the modelling of his parents no doubt! and “don’t be such a weirdo” — i thought that was an admonishment i was the only parent to hear – LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s a few of us parent weirdos about Tanya!! We could sure do with a few less life lessons and a few more positive outcomes though!


  7. It’s really hard isn’t it. I think sometimes as parents we are more invested than our kids. O’s attitude is very mature though and I suspect he is going to find his place. Best of luck. #triumphanttales

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are right about the invested bit … but then their happiness is wrapped up in ours so where do you draw the line?


  8. Daydreamer mum

    Ah what a well written post!! I was willing him on there all the way. It sounds as though your son has the right attitude so many adults ( ok probably me …I possibly have deep seated rejection issues but hey you’re not my therapist! !) would take something like this as a personal rejection. I hope he and his team that is meant to be will find one another very soon!! #Dreamteam

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You son sounds like a great kid with his head screwed on just right. With that attitude he will go far. I bet you’re super proud of him.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What a great post! The only way to fail in life is to not try. O will succeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oof, it must be so nervewracking watching your child compete. Sounds like you’ve managed to keep a level head, and your son seems the same, which must make you super-proud. Good luck with the next one! #ItsOK x


    • It is … I’m not so sure about keeping the level head all the time however!!! He’s a good lad, with plenty of character. And thanks Kate


  12. awww… mhm never considered so much drama on a muddy youngster soccer pitch – i live next to one and sometimes think I could make a fortune selling tea/coffee and scones on a wet miserable saturday morning when i see all the parents under their brollies on the sidelines…


  13. I felt the emotion.
    I hope you didn’t come across as a “weirdo” lol.
    Good luck to O with finding a club that’s the right one for him. #ItsOK


  14. Sounds like you are raising an absolute superstar. Melted my heart to read this and I hope my little boy has as much courage, strength and stamina as yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Sounds like a great coach to come out and spend the time to explain and a brilliant attitude from O. so even not making that particular team was a positive experience #bloggerclubuk

    Liked by 1 person

    • He was Briony, and we very much appreciated how he handled it. So it was as positive as a rejection can be. Thanks for commenting


  16. This post reminded me of working with someone who was really into football. I was always the outsider, fat and unsporty girl at school so avoided anything sports-related. However, I will always remember big talks on life and football and the connections between the two with my colleague. Sounds like your child is learning a lot of life lessons along the football journey. All the best #BloggerClubUK

    Liked by 1 person

    • He is Kate … some a little harsh fir a young teenager to maybe have to handle now, but that’s the game innit! Thanks for your comment


  17. This takes me back to when my older brother was younger, he was a great left footer and was being scouted for major teams. Unfortunately drinking and smoking appealed to him more, but there was something so great about the whole family rallying behind supporting him as we all knew he had the talent! I’m sure O will get the right team down the line.
    Thank you for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back next week.


  18. We are a couple a dance moms over here, and believe it or not, its cut throat if you let it get to you. I just say, go out, have fun, always do your very best. Sound like O knows that and understands a lot about life already. #globalblogging xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I love O’s self-awareness and his equanimity in the face of ‘failure’. Fingers crossed he finds his place and that he comes out of these experiences all the stronger for having had to work to earn a spot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Has been a little less sanguine about it since but onward! Has a couple of trial scenarios over the weekend. Fingers crossed. Thanks Tim


  20. Sounds like o has adopted a really mature attitude, admireable X #thesatsesh


  21. As I said on Twitter, I don’t imagine ever experiencing this as my kids take after me and aren’t sporty at all! Team games were my idea of hell. The coaches of the team sound very wise and supportive of the team, genuinely wanting the best for your son as well as the others. I hope O finds a team soon! Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging


  22. Your son sounds like a really smart and resilient kid. I wish him the best of luck and I know he will find the right club that fits him. 🙂 #MixitUp

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Well done O 👍 I think it shows great strength of character when you are able to see that you might be a better fit with another team – and just dust yourself off. Good luck with the search! #dreamteam ⚽️

    Liked by 1 person

    • From the Dream Team – perfect!! He was right,and even playing in practice with these better teams he looked way better than last season. No disrespect to his former team, but it was killing his confidence. Good players make one better. Thanks Annette

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Absolutely lovely post Enda! It’s important for kids to learn that #itsok to fail sometimes, it’s the perseverance and attitude towards that failure that counts. Thanks for sharing this with #itsok.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. #thesatsesh Hmmm…thought, has childhood always been this brutal? I really believe this generation is more scrutinised then ever before, not necessarily games but school etc. Sounds like you are growing a resilient bean though.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Cor this sounds hardcore! Good luck to O with the next trial! #thesatsesh

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Lucy At Home

    Oh it’s such a difficult industry, especially with such a popular sport. It sounds like O has his head screwed on right, though, and I hope that his next trial is more fruitful #blogcrush


    • He dos, but it really is tough … ability is only part of it: different coaches have different opinions, and resilience is essential. Thanks for commenting Lucy


  28. Back to you, Enda, from #thesatsesh I hope your holidays are wonderful and magical!

    Liked by 1 person

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